There’s a special feeling when you see the first flowers blooming in early spring…
The first snowdrops or crocuses that grace your garden have a special place in your heart.
Having said this, many gardens look far too empty and barren in early spring, maybe because people don’t know that there are so many flowers that blossom in early spring that – really – there is no reason why your flower beds should not be bright and colorful at this time!
You can start as early as February to have blooms of beautiful flowers in your garden, even in temperate regions with cold winters.
There are many early bloomers for you, and they come mainly from three groups of plants: bulbs, like crocuses and snowdrops, shrubs like forsythia and bridal wreath and finally herbaceous perennials like twinleaf and creeping phlox.
This article will present you with a choice of the best early blooming spring flowering plants in these three categories, so your garden can have an early start.
You can even anticipate the beauty of these newcomers in your garden thanks to the great pictures you will see. Of course, we will also tell you how to make sure that your flowers grow healthy and beautiful.
21 Early Spring blooming Flowers To Plant In your Garden
Here we go then… The best flowers for an early explosion of colors and light in your garden, as we said, are mainly in three categories.
This is actually quite handy because it means that you can choose among shapes, sizes and habits that will suit most places in your garden (like pots, borders or flower beds) as well as types of garden (formal, informal, small or big).
Surely you can see that with a mix of bulbs, perennials and shrubs, your garden can look great very early on in the season… So, read in to find which ones are just perfect for your garden or terrace.
Early Spring Flowering Bulbs
Bulbs offer a wide range of early spring bloomers. They are very easy plants to grow as well, and this may account for why they are so popular. Then again, they also have rally beautiful flowers…
Actually, the flowers most people associate with spring, daffodils, are bulbous plants…
For early spring flowers, make sure you plant them no later than October in temperate regions. This is to give them a good run to establish themselves, or you risk delaying the flowering.
And here are recommended early spring bulbs!
1. Snowdrops (Galanthusnivalis)
We couldn’t start with any other plant. Snowdrops are iconic early spring bloomers, and original too.
They have three oval shaped white petals that hang down, often with a green dot on them, which look like a very unusual bell. Then, a white crown in the center gives us their unique shape.
They are small flowers but full of charm, and seeing them pop out if the soil or grass as early as February is always an emotional experience.
They are also reliable and cold hardy plants that you can grow even in most parts of Canada and expect new blooms every spring…
Actually, they naturalize very easily and propagate spontaneously, so, find them an undisturbed spot in your garden and in a few years they will fill it with their playful presence.
2. Crocus (Crocus Spp.)
Everybody loves crocuses because they are just the most lovable flowers ever! They have those rounded cups of colorful petals that look up from so low down on the ground that they just disarm even the toughest person, don’t they?
They are reminiscent of Alpine pastures (which do fill with seas of crocuses as soon as winter is over), and they too are easy to naturalize.
There are many natural species, as well as a plethora of cultivars, some even “big” in size, like giant Dutch crocus.
Maybe the most iconic color of crocuses is violet purple, but you can have them white, yellow or even reddish purple.
Excellent for rock gardens, flower beds or pots, you can also grow them to turn your lawn into an early carpet of flowers.
3. Daffodil (Narcissu Sspp.)
Np flower symbolizes spring as much as daffodils. With their enchanting shape, with their beautiful crown in the middle, with their amazingly beautiful scent, daffodils have made it into gardens, poems and people’s hearts all over the world.
There are many varieties you can choose from. For example the classical poet’s daffodil (Narcissus poeticus), the very first cultivated daffodil in history, with a short orange crown and white petals, or the very common and larger large cupped narcissus varieties like ‘Dutch Master) or ‘Carlton’. Finally there are also double daffodils if you want.
Excellent for pots, flower beds, rock gardens and borders, daffodils are easy to naturalize and propagate spontaneously as well.
Just divide the clumps when they become too thick and you will have plenty of nice smelling flowers every spring.
4. Grape Hyacinth (Muscarispp.)
Here is another emblematic flower that fills temperate forests early in spring, with a sea of “grape like” bell shaped flowers that can be blue, violet or at times white.
Called “grape lilies” because of the closed bells that grow in great numbers on long stems, this bulbous flower is an excellent choice if you want long blooms and a very vigorous plant.
It will easily naturalize in most temperate climates and it is ideal for rock gardens, early beds, containers or, again, if you have a dappled shade part of the garden, even under trees, that needs a splash of colors in spring.
5. Squill (Scilla Spp.)
Squills are like miniature lilies with a temperate look. In fact there are Alpine and Siberian squills, but also Portuguese (or Peruvian) and Madeiran varieties.
All have one thing in common: they produce lovely and lively star shaped flowers on upright stems amid a beautiful rosette of long and tongue shaped leaves in Spring. These can cone in inflorescences of about a dozen flowers, or small clusters.
Siberian squills (Scilla siberica) and white squill (Scilla mischtschenkoana– ok, 7 consonants in a row…) are some of the earliest bloomers.
They will come in white, white with blue stripes, blue and violet. Thus, the choice of colors for your rock garden, pots, flower bed or even lawn is fairly wide, and they too naturalize and propagate fairly easily.
6. Dwarf Iris (Iris Reticulata)
You would not expect irises to bloom in early spring, would you? But one species, a small, buts stunning variety, dwarf iris, will pop its three beautiful flowers just out of the ground as soon as the cold season is over.
These flowers are usually blue to violet in color and with a yellow beard on the fall (the lower petal).
They long bloomers too (quite rare with early spring flowers) and they will keep your rock garden, lawn, early flower bed or the pots on your patio vibrant and alive for weeks on end.
These bulbous perennials are also easy to naturalize and they will propagate spontaneously if you give them a quiet spot to call home.
7. Glory Of The Snow (Chionodoxaforbesii)
This miniature lily looking flower is actually a very early spring bloomer. In some regions it may well blossom in February in fact.
The small clusters of star shaped flowers will appear on thin stems amid beautiful long and concave leaves and they will look great in small clumps of about 15 in flower beds, low borders, in containers or also in rock gardens.
Yet another cold hardy plant that you can grow in most parts of Canada, this splendid little gem will also naturalize in most regions and propagate on its own.
So, plant a few this fall and you will have lovely flowers early every spring for the rest of your life.
The color? They can be white, blue, magenta, magenta punk or a mix of white (at the center) and any of the other colors (at the tips of the tepals).
Early Spring Blooming Flowering Shrubs
Why leave your hedges and borders sad and flowerless when there are so many early spring flowering shrubs that bloom as soon as the cold season is over? Actually, some don’t even wait for it to be fully over… at the first signs of warmth, for example, Japanese pussy willow will fill with purple catkins!
These are often very sturdy plants that require minimal maintenance too, so, having flowers in early spring with shrubs could not be any easier.
Let’s meet them then!
1. Forsythia (Forsythia Spp.)
With an amazingly vigorous shrub which fills with bright yellow flowers from early spring, forsythia has become a favorite for hedges all over the world.
The sea of sunny flowers will appear before you cam actually spot the leaves directly on the new branches of this shrub every year, with the same intensity and the same explosion of light, surprising visitors and guests to your garden.
Forsythia is a very undemanding perennial shrub that is just excellent if you want a lot of color; for the time it is in bloom, it always becomes the protagonist in any garden.
Having said this, it is better suited to fairly large spaces, as it grows quite a lot.
There are different varieties, like Forsythia x intermedia ‘Lynwood variety’ whose branches have an upright habit, and which has won the Award of Garden Merit by the Royal Horticultural Society, or weeping forsythia (Forsythia suspensa) and Koran Forsythia (Forsythia ovata) which have arching branches.
Maybe the most common though is border forsythia (Forsythia x intermedia), whose branches offer an intricate pattern of dark stems and yellow flowers.
2. Japanese Pussy Willow (Salixchaenomeloides)
Not all willows are trees; some are shrubs and some also have very original blossoms… They are called catkins and they look like thick plumes that grow straight onto the younger branches.
And Japanese pussy willow has bright pink purple catkins with a white fluff all over them.
And yes, you guessed; they come out in great numbers in early spring, even before you can spot the leaves themselves.
This creates a very playful array of fuzzy colorful “rabbit tails” that look amazing in the bright spring sunlight.
You can grow it as a standalone shrub, or mix it with others in hedges and borders. And when the bloom is over, you can still enjoy its beautiful green foliage till late in fall.
3. Vernal Witch Hazel (Hamamelis Virginiana‘Kohankie Red’)
Most witch hazel shrubs blossom in fall and have yellow or yellow green and sometimes negligible flowers… Not vernal witch hazel though!
Called “vernal” just because it flowers in late winter and early spring, before the leaves are out, this variety has showy rich pink to purple flowers too!
This is not an easy color to find in early spring…
The flowers look a bit wild, as the center is start shaped and deep purple, but then there are ribbon like and zig-zagging petals that hang from the center…
When it is hot, these long petals spread out… When it gets cold, they curl up to cover the central flower.
This unusual behavior and its striking color make it perfect as a bold statement either on its own or as part of a tall border or medium to tall hedge.
4. Japanese Andromeda (Pieris Japonica)
Japanese andromeda is an evergreen shrub with dense green foliage and a compact habit.
This makes it ideal to fill in large hedges and borders that need thickening all year round. But as soon as spring comes, at the tips of new branches, between the leaves, this plant is ready to give its greatest show…
It will grow about a dozen thin stems all around… and each stem will fill with about two dozen bell shaped flowers growing on both sides of it!
Individually, they are quite pretty to look at, but the ensemble has an unforgettable effect! Usually, the many flowers are white, but there are pink varieties too…
And if you want sone extra color, choose the variety ‘Red Head’v whose leaves are born bright red before turning green later in the season…
5. Korean Fir (Abieskoreana ‘Kohout’s Ice Breaker’)
If you have a small garden, patio or terrace and you want a wonderful early spring flowering shrub, then Korean fir is perfect for you.
This small evergreen conifer has impressive foliage, with green curling needles.
They are silver white underneath, which creates a stunningsilver blue effect which shimmers in the Sun. This alone makes it quite unique, but…
… Starting in April, Korean fir will produce flower like structures of the most striking purple to blue colors.
These are not technically flowers, but pollen bearing structures which will then turn into cones, but still the visual effect with this particular conifer is one of amazingly colorful flowers on top of the leaves.
This plant is very slow growing too, which makes it ideal for small places and containers and its overall shape is pyramidal, which will also add structural and architectural beauty to your garden or patio.
6. Winter Heather (Erica Carnea)
For a very small shrub, ideal for carpeting, flower beds, containers and rock gardens, winter heather is an excellent very early bloomer.
In fact it will start in the midst of winter and continue all the way to the end of May…
Winter heather us very generous indeed with its blooms.
Not only will it keep your garden looking great, colorful and alive though the cold season and beyond… It will also produce an infinity of flowers.
Individually, each tubular shaped flower is quite attractive, but what really strikes with winter heather is the overall color effect of the flowers… And they can be white, pink, magenta or purple; the choice is yours.
7. Bridal Wreath (Spiraea Prunifolia)
What a wonderful plant is bridalwreath! In early and mid spring, it will cover with lots if double flowers that grow straight in the red branches.
These are white, round and they have a few green dashes in the center…
In fall though it will put on yet another show when the toothed elliptical leaves of this deciduous shrub turn red, orange and yellow!
The two looks could not be different in feeling, colors and overall effect in your garden.
For a large border or a large hedge that need to come alive both in early spring and in fall, and for lovely green foliage from late spring till the end of summer, bridal wreath is just ideal.
Early Spring Flowering Perennials
While most perennials will prefer warmer times to bloom, there’s a fair few that will start as soon as possible, like lungwort or Virginia bluebells.
The exact time will depend on where you live. In colder regions the blossom will be slightly delayed, but in most temperate climates, they will be ready with buds as soon as winter is over, and soon open their beautiful flowers to the bright rays of the Sun.
These too are usually strong plants that require little maintenance, but they can give your borders and flowerbeds a “jumpstart” and make your garden beautiful early on.
And if you want to grow them, here they are!
1. Bloodroot (Sanguinariacanadensis)
Bloodroot is a wonderful small perennial with very striking flowers. Each head will grow individually on upright stems and open upwards, towards the sky.
But what is maybe most endearing of these flowers is that the white oval petals are very delicate and elegant in shape as well as in color. The center is golden yellow, which adds to the bright beauty of these sweet flowers.
The blooms are generous and continue into mud winter. This is a perfect perennial plant for small pots, but also rock gardens, flower beds and it looks excellent in gravel gardens thanks to the very elegant flowers.
Why is it calked bloodroot? Because if you cut it, it will bleed a red sap, which too is very unusual…
2. Creeping Phlox (Phlox Subulata)
For a matt forming perennial which covers in wonderful flowers every spring, creeping phlox is a great contender as the best plant.
It will literally cover in small flowers with five petals, each with a small dent at the end.
This will occur in mid spring in colder climates, but you will see them earlier in warmer regions.
But if you want to make sure they blossom early, choose one of the cultivars of the ‘Early Spring’ varieties.
It is excellent as ground cover, to bring flowers under shrubs and roses, in rocky areas, to edge paths and on banks and slopes.
The flower color?
‘Candy Stripe’ (a favorite) has central magenta stripes and lateral white ones. ‘Snowflake’ is white. ‘Red Wings’ is magenta. ‘Blue Emerald’ is violet blue. And there are more varieties to choose from in this range.
3. Pig Squeak (Bergeniacordifolia ‘Winter Glow’)
The foliage of pig squeak is evergreen, and so broad and showy that it has earned it the nickname “elephant ear”.
They are emerald green and glossy, erect and shaped into a rosette. In early spring, red stems will come from the base of the plant that will give you clumps of magenta to shocking pink flowers of the most intense hue.
This is an evergreen plant that has become very popular in low flower beds and as groundcover, but few people know that it is also suitable as undergrowth for shrubs and roses, for coastal gardens and it looks stunning in gravel gardens.
4. Primrose (Primula Spp.)
Synonymous with “early blooming” primrose is a classic flowering perennial that will flower in early spring.
There are now so many varieties and colors to choose from that the classical yellow is accompanied by white, blue, purple, red, now even green and brown as well as mixed colors.
If you are after striking color contrast, though ‘Zebra Blue’ will leave you speechless with its deep blue flowers with white veins and the iconic yellow center.
Primrose is a protagonist of early spring all over the world, where it adorns flower beds and containers, but maybe its most appropriate place is under the dappled shade of trees, where it will bring fresh and bright colors just as they start growing new leaves.
5. Twinleaf (Jeffersoniadiphylla)
Maybe we associate early spring blooms with Alpine landscapes and temperate forests…
So, if this is the effect you want, twinleaf is your plant. It is a small perennial which will grow its leaves at the same time as it blossoms, in early spring.
The flowers will come on independent purple stems, which, oddly enough, will keep growing while in bloom.
They are white, with 8 oval petals and yellow stamens in the center. On the whole, they are quite showy. Once the flowers have wilted away though, twin leaf will not stop providing interest in your beds or under roses and shrubs…
There will be red and pear shaped capsules to catch your attention and the leaves – well, they are purple and they look like wings. Most people think they look like angels, in fact…
6. Virginian Bluebells (Mertensiavirginica)
Virginian bluebells is very eager to blossom early in spring, and it starts off with stems bearing a series of trumpet shaped and punk flowers that hang underneath them…
But the bloom will go on till later in the season and it will change! In fact, the pink hue will slowly turn into a sky blue color that expresses innocence and hope.
The flower bearing stems will have tender, light green elliptical leaves, which give a perfect backdrop for the color display of this lovely perennial.
Grow it in groups in beds or borders but also under shrubs and roses and it will attract lots of butterflies to your garden.
7. Hellebore (Helleborusspp.)
I think of hellebore as the queen of winter, because it keeps our gardens in bloom even when they are covered in snow.
But this stunning perennial, sometimes called “Christmas rose” blooms into early spring, and sometimes even beyond.
You can have a whole hellebore garden if you choose. Their showy five petaled flowers will come profusely year on year and this plant is both cold hardy and low maintenance. The leaves are beautiful and texturally valuable, and some turn purple as well.
However, what is most impressive in this magnificent plant is the array of colors this genus has…
There are many white varieties but also a lot of green ones, which is rare in flowers.
But then again there are purple varieties, like ‘True Love’ and pink varieties like ‘HGC Maestro’. But also a black variety, ‘Midnight Ruffles’ (very dark purple) if you want to stun your visitors.
Still, maybe the most interesting ones are the varieties that mix colors. Few plants have the same “touch” when mixing shades as hellebore. It is a genius of shading… ‘Sandy Shores’ for example, has a purplish red center which seamlessly turns into yellow at the front, while the back is between coral and light purple.
Don’t Waste the Early Blooming Season in Your Garden
Many gardens look like barren landscapes in early spring. Some even look like a working site… And true, early spring is a busy time of the year. But there is no reason why you should not enjoy beautiful flowers while you are preparing your beds and sowing your seedlings.
There are plenty early flowering plants, and as you have seen, there is a good choice for all types of gardens. And with bulbous flowering plants, flowering shrubs and perennials, you can put vibrant colors at all levels of your garden, in pots, in borders, in beds, and even under shrubs and in loan…
So, don’t waste this time of the year and get your garden to look great as soon as the snow melts.
Amber Noyes was born and raised in a suburban California town, San Mateo. She holds a master’s degree in horticulture from the University of California as well as a BS in Biology from the University of San Francisco. With experience working on an organic farm, water conservation research, farmers’ markets, and plant nursery, she understands what makes plants thrive and how we can better understand the connection between microclimate and plant health. When she’s not on the land, Amber loves informing people of new ideas/things related to gardening, especially organic gardening, houseplants, and growing plants in a small space.